White Sox sell-off: ready, but waiting
Since getting benched for not hustling on Friday night, Alex Rios has gone 5-9 with a home run and knocked in six runs. That’s not stated to relate the two occurrences but to acknowledge that Rios has done a lot to push a troublesome story down the timeline. Good work, Alex. It’s a difficult topic.
When interviewed about his displeasure over being benched over an offense that he viewed worthy of little more than a conversation with the boss, Rios bristled in particular at the suggestion that he was in position to get benched on Saturday. Two days later, we’re back to wondering how this lineup could possibly function without Rios, which is a familiar, if not exactly happy place.
In a joking, dodging the issue comment, I said that Rios breaking his 31-game home run drought would be more important for his trade value than his well-known makeup concerns, and going ballistic while scouts look on over the past two days very well outpaced everything he did Friday in terms of significance. But there’s still no matching the conundrum of this debate.
Much like there will soon be an organizational directive to emphasize playing younger players who need to develop over actually maximizing the team’s chances to win, day-in, day-out, there should currently be a directive to showcase tradable talent. Rios occasionally reading as lethargic isn’t new information for scouts of opposing teams, nor is his ability to produce at All-Star levels, nor is his ability to play like one of the worst players in baseball for five months at a time, but it would be beneficial to have the best image of him be the most recent image available.
But to what degree can Robin Ventura put this above his more constant responsibility of enforcing standards of play? That he found the need to reprimand Rios for not running out a play that could have given the White Sox the lead, or that he found the need to reprimand Rios in general–he’s a good player, constant griping about his effort level is overwrought, but this is not breaking new ground by any means–does not register as him being particularly obtuse. Add in the context of a season of the type of on-field buffoonery that typically gets blamed on managers, and it’s understandable why Ventura might be doling out punishment.
If Ventura thought he wasn’t doing his job if he didn’t act on Rios’ play, then it’s hard to upbraid him for that. If he had been instructed to avoid making players look bad and simply not given a damn, or had been chugging along a pattern of behavior where he had been consistently making the situation with Rios unworkable, a la Colby Rasmus and Tony La Russa, then that would be different.
Speaking of players who hopefully are overcoming hits to their trade value, Jake Peavy is all the rage again after all of one start, which came after six weeks on the disabled list for breaking a rib (which possibly affected his previous two starts, both of which were disasters that kicked up his ERA nearly a run and a half). It’s a touching story of a depressed market for quality starting pitching, reduced even more so by the second wild card, overcoming the perils of a six-week non-arm injury (though, naturally, Peavy has managed to break his rib before). Of course, if Peavy was at 120 innings of work at this moment and coming off an All-Star appearance, the Sox would be in a much better bargaining position, provided they weren’t convinced they were still in the race. But just being able to hit top velocity and scrape together a quality start was enough to get Jake to the top of trade discussions again. How about that?
I didn’t even think he looked that sharp.
Continuing his trend of reporting rumors for Chicago that aren’t picked up elsewhere, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo wrote that Addison Reed is available for a price that exceeds those of rental candidates like Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton. Of course he has more value than two-month rentals, and of course Reed, a reliever with “closer” status is more valuable in trade than he is irreplaceable to the White Sox, so everything here checks out from a logic perspective. With all the deals the Sox need to act now on in order to maximize value, it wouldn’t be much of a tragedy to see Reed pitching on the South Side for the rest of the season or even beyond, but he’s the type of chip they need to use if they want to see some bigger hauls than Brandon Jacobs.
Whether Alejandro De Aza deserves that same status as well is a tough question to answer. His baseball vagabond status prior to 2011 gave rise to the notion that his grip on being an above-average hitter was fleeting, so when he spent the first two months whiffing up a storm, it was worth it to wonder if he had already outlived his use. But by hitting .314/.382/.485 since June 1, De Aza’s not only dragged his batting line back to where he’s movable, but to where it’s better (less on base, but more power) than what he finished with last season, while being more efficient on the base paths and playing an absolute ton (he’s practically on the Juan Pierre plan). He’ll turn 30 a little after Opening Day next season, and is arbitration-eligible for two more seasons after this one.
That puts him nicely in the middle ground between a clear trade chit and someone who could contribute to the next winning White Sox team, depending on how much the front office is willing and capable of competently throwing money into some of the holes in their lineup. He hasn’t been mentioned in any reports so far, which is just fine. Acting like the White Sox can just stumble into another center fielder who can hit worth a scratch is potentially extremely presumptuous. Alexei Ramirez, with marked displays of offensive decline covered only by a paper-thin blanket of a .287 batting average and at least $20.5 million owed to him over the next two years (including a 2016 buyout) is much less ambiguous case.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan